Archive for Embroidery

Blurring the Line: Textile Art Takes Manhattan

Posted in Art, Exhibitions, galleries with tags , , , on September 24, 2010 by arttextstyle

This Fall, art involving weaving, embroidery and crochet is showing up in unexpected venues in New York, possibly answering the question, at last: Is craft art? One gallery disavows any connection: “Olek’s use of crochet has no relation to the world of craft, rather it is used as an alternative to other artistic mediums such as oil or acrylic on canvas.” the press materials assert. But we can’t help but wonder: Does the gallery protest too much??

In any event, Here’s a list of three intriguing exhibitions featuring artists who use cotton viscose, silk and recycled material, woven and crocheted, in their work as well as acrylic, ink, enamel and glass.

threading orbs
An Exhibition of Recent Tapestries and Works on Paper by Thierry W. Despont
Marlborough Gallery, Inc.
40 West 57th Street
New York, NY 10019
t. 212.541.4900 f. 212.541.4948
September 23rd – October 23, 2010

The Marlborough Gallery mounts an exhibition of tapestries and works on paper by renowned artist, architect and designer Thierry W. Despont The show will mark the public debut of Despont’s work in tapestry. Eight monumental tapestries will be displayed. Despont is recognized for his paintings on wood panel or on copper mounted on wood panel that depict nebulas, celestial bodies and planets. These works are executed in mixed media with such materials as enamel, asphaltum, acrylic, ink, glue, epoxy resin, paper, alumichrom, and oil stick. By using contemporary Jacquard looms, Despont as translated these richly detailed, highly expressive paintings into woven tapestries that seem to glow with light.

Despont comments on this new body of work: “… I like to think of my orbs as floating in space, and tapestry, with its three-dimensional aspects, is a fantastic medium for them…. I am fascinated by our universe filled with billions of galaxies, of stars and planets, by the idea of being drawn into space and floating away. The tapestries display this poetic notion of floating with these orbs, as the light bounces off softly. … People are drawn to them…. It is an emotional force; they exert their own kind of gravity.”

In addition to his familiarity with tapestries as a child in France, Despont became engaged with the medium of tapestry — its beauty, artistic qualities and installation — through his restoration of Clayton, the Frick family mansion in Pittsburgh, and his design for the Decorative Arts Galleries of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, where numerous tapestries of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries are on view. He joins a number of contemporary artists who have used the new, technologically advanced Jacquard looms to create lasting work of power and intricate visual poetry.

An illustrated catalogue featuring an interview with the artist will be available at the time of the exhibition.

“OLEK: Knitting is for Pus****”
Christopher Henry Gallery
127 Elizabeth St., (Broome)
New York, NY
Through October 17, 2010

Polish-born artist, Olek creates wild, and occasionally functional, structures from hundreds of miles of crocheted, woven, and often recycled materials, forms, and spaces. For this exhibition,the ChristopherHenry Gallery serves as the “home base” for Olek’s exhibit, a multi-media sculptural environment, featuring an entire room completely covered in crochet. Viewers may also follow her threads out of the gallery using a map to discover new objects she has crocheted and intertwined throughout the neighborhoods of NOLITA and L.E.S.

“Olek’s use of crochet has no relation to the world of craft,” reads the gallery’s press materials, “rather it is used as an alternative to other artistic mediums such as oil or acrylic on canvas. Its use can be interpreted as a metaphor for the complexity and interconnectedness of the body, its systems and psychology, and, in a broader sense, it can represent humanity itself. The connections are stronger as one fabric, as opposed to separate strands, but, if you cut one, the whole thing will fall apart. It also serves as a literal extension of the body, a second skin that can be stretched and reshaped. Olek’s use of crochet is not a feminist critique – her obsessive use of the medium, often denigrated as “women’s work”, combined with Olek’s recurring camouflage motif and the impressive scale of her projects, challenges traditional notions of gender, as she aggressively re-weaves the world as she sees fit. In a new series of text based works Olek contrasts the convenience and spontaneity of “txt msgs” to her time-consuming, laborious crochet, reevaluating the notions of privacy, communication, and technology while immortalizing the intense yet fleeting sentiments of modern relationships.”

The marquis and a bearded dominatrix with a cake in the oven

Galerie Lelong
528 W. 26th St.
New York, NY
Through October 23, 2010.
In The marquis and a bearded dominatrix with a cake in the oven, Angelo Filomeno presents new embroidery paintings and sculpture that exemplify his signature technique and fascination with the macabre. Fantastical and allegorical in imagery, and intricate in technique, Filomeno’s works are deeply informed by his upbringing in Italy. Filomeno learned to embroider from his mother and began apprenticing for a tailor when he was 7; his father was a blacksmith. From a young age, Filomeno formed a keen awareness of texture, composition, detail, and craftsmanship. He also developed an interest in the darker facets of the human condition: mortality, isolation, compulsion, fragility. These stark themes have pervaded his work, juxtaposed with the use of alluring, sensuous materials such as silk, black glass, and crystals.

In his newest exhibition, Filomeno pares down the ornate approach for which he is best known and presents sparser, more concise works that evoke the artist’s common themes with minimal means. Included are two large-scale mandalas, embroidered mosaics of stitched silk and satin in varying shades of yellow. The concentric rings of geometric patterns and bright yellow hues beckon the viewer to gaze deeper and deeper in to the piece, only to be confronted by a sinister skull and hoards of cockroaches hidden in their centers. Also on view will be a triptych of detached, decomposing heads of men he deems ‘philosophers,’ a character that he has revisited throughout his career as a paradigm of the harsh aspects of mortality and reflection. “The irony,” Filomeno has said, “is that these portraits represent death, but they are still thinking about their own existence.”

Maybe we’ll see you there.


Stitching on the Silver Screen: A List in Progress

Posted in Film, Sewing with tags , on January 4, 2010 by arttextstyle

Writing about needlework in the film Bright Star last month got me wondering — and Googling — about other portrayals of sewing, weaving, embroidery, and the like in film. I poked around the web for a couple of weeks and contacted film experts and friends of long-standing Cari Beauchamp and Sloan Seale for suggestions. (Cari is the author of a host of books on film including: Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood Joseph P. Kennedy Presents: His Hollywood Years and Adventures of a Hollywood Secretary: Her Private Letters from Inside the Studios of the 1920s with Valeria Belletti and Sam Goldwyn Jr.) The result is the highly idiosyncratic list below. I am indebted to artist Sabrina Gschwandtner and Fiberarts editor Marci Rae McDade who compiled a list of feature-length fiber-related films in the April/May 2009 issue of Fiberarts (their selections are asterisked below). I have added the parantheticals and other nominees in developing my own compilation. For a much more extensive list (132!) of films that feature just knitting, see Knitting in the Movies; there’s another at Knit Flix.

Films that Feature Handwork (a highly selective view):

The Addams Family; Addams Family Values, 1991;1993 (In the films and tv series, Mother Morticia often knits odd two-headed, three-legged items for family members.)

Amelie, 2001 (tobaccionist is crocheting).

Babette’s Feast, 1987 (Babette sews with her sisters in the kitchen.)

Bend It Like Beckham, 2002 (Mrs Bhamra (Shaheen Khan) is knitting for her expected grandchild.)


Breakfast at Tiffany’s, * 1961 (Includes the famed line: “Jose brought up the blueprints for a new ranch house. I have this strange feeling that the blueprints and the knitting instructions got switched. I may be knitting a ranch house!” For more Audrey check out Breakfast at Tiffany’s Audrey Hepburn stitchalong for across-stitch pattern of Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly.)

City Lights, Charlie Chaplin, 1931 (Skein winding.)


Coraline,* 2009 (see Thread for Thought for a comprehensive discussion of the “loving attention” given to handcrafts in this film.)

Dancing at Lughnasa,* Pat O’Connor, 1998, (Meryl Streep knits socks.)


Fargo, 1996 (Jean in a bobble and cable sweater, knitting her next project. (thank you Vickie Howell.)

Gone with the Wind,* Victor Fleming, 1939 (When Melanie is reading while the women are waiting, one of them is crocething).

Handmade Nation,* Faythe Levine, 2009 (Includes portraits of crafters across the US, including knitters and embroiderers.)

The Heiress, 1949 (Olivia deHaviland begins an embroidered sampler when her lover abandons her on the night they were to elope.) (In 1999, artist Elaine Reicker who uses embroidery to explore aesthetics in art created a video, When This You See . . ., that combined nine appropriated film clips that show women knitting, sewing, or weaving — including The Heiress. “Each segment reveals a pivotal moment in the source movie’s drama and is punctuated by a freeze-frame and the superimposition of a single word written in bright pink cursive script: ‘obsession,’ ‘betrayal,’ ‘revolution,’ ‘revenge,'” wrote Margaret Sundell, in Art Forum (6/22/99). In this way, Reichek captures cinema’s structural interplay between repetition and temporal unfolding, and – as the viewer starts anticipating the arrival of her interpretative captions – the rhythm of expectation and delivery that drives its narrative engine.”)

Heavenly Creatures, 1994 (Kate Winslet knits.)

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,* 2005 (At one point, the entire cast is turned into stop-animation knitted dolls. One of them vomits multicolored yarn.)

How to Make an American Quilt, 1995 (The story centers on the stories of several women in a quilting bee as they construct a wedding quilt as a gift for a member’s granddaughter, Finn Dodd (Winona Ryder).)

Like Water for Chocolate,* 1992 (Tita crochets onto a bedspread when upset, as a way of coping with disappointment.)

Mr. Lucky, 1943 (Cary Grant learns to knit.)

The Odyssey, 1997 (Penelope (Greta Saatchi) weaves a shroud by day and unravels it by night — having promised to pick a suitor when her weaving is finished, and having no intention of ever reaching the end, certain that Ulysses will yet return home.)

Pluto’s Sweater, 1949, animated (Pluto is teased when he wears a red sweater knit for him by Minnie.).

Preparez vos Mouchoirs (Get Out Your Handkerchiefs) 1978 (The leading lady knits for her lovers and when her knitting shows up on other men, they immediately know what’s up — as does the audience.)

The Price of Milk,* 2000 (key role for patchwork quilt.)

Repo Man, 1984 (A knitting security guard.)

The Science of Sleep,* 2006 (Knit objects take on an animated life.)

The Secret Code, 1918 (The villainess crochets coded messages into mufflers)

Tale of Two Cities, 1935 (Madame DeFarge knits a register of names of those headed to the guillotine); also A History of the World, Part I, Mel Brooks, 1981 (Madame Defarge (played by Cloris Leachman) has become so poor she has run out of wool, simply rubbing her knitting needles together.)

Wallace & Gromit
: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit 2005 (Gromit, knits a scarf while waiting in the car for Wallace); also Wallace and Gromit in A Close Shave,* 1995 (this one’s just 30 minutes, but it’s all about hand knitting and knitting machines.)

Wanted,* 2008 (A mild-mannered man leaves a dead-end job to join a fraternity of assassins headquartered in an unassuming textile mill. The group is giving its assignments by the Loom of Fate, a loom that gives the names of the targets through binary code hidden in weaving errors of the fabric.)

Wool 100%,* 2006 (In this Japanese film, two elderly sisters live in a mansion piled to the roof with things they have found in the trash, including a jumble of brilliant red yarn. A strange, wild girl breaks into their house and starts to knit the yarn into a formless sweater.)

And What’s with handwork and the criminal element?

In A Cry In The Dark, 1988, Meryl Streep knits while discussing the trial where her baby is carried off by a dingo in Australia. In Chicago, 2002, Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger) knits during her murder trial and in Murder Most Foul, 1964. Margaret Rutherford knits in jury box. In No Escape, 1999, male prisoners are seen spinning and knitting. And in Foul Play, 1978, Goldie Hawn uses a knitting needle as a weapon and so does a seemingly mild-mannered grandmother in George Romero’s The Crazies, 1973).

Add your nominees to the list by posting a comment here or writing us at Thanks!

Stitching on the Silver Screen: Bright Star

Posted in Fashion, Film with tags on November 23, 2009 by arttextstyle

From Bright Star: Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) examines a piece of handwork.

In the film Bright Star, released last month, sewing, fashion and handwork play more than walk-on parts. Set in London in 1818, the film chronicles a secret, and ill-fated, love affair between the young English poet, John Keats (Ben Whishaw), and the girl next door, Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish), an out-spoken student of high fashion. They make an unlikely pair, he thinking her a stylish minx, and she unimpressed not only by his poetry but by literature in general. “My stitching has more merit and admirers than both of your two scribblings put together,” Fanny tells John Keats and Charles Brown, as they dismiss her so they can work on their poetry. “And I can make money from it.” That scene illustrates a key conflict in the film, between Fanny’s “utilitarian talent and his ethereal one, a woman’s ‘craft’ versus a man’s ‘high art,'” Elizabeth Bales Frank observes in her blog review of the film.

The film’s director, Jane Campion, spends time sewing herself — including embroidering pillowslips for her daughter and her own friends. Campion told Livia Bloom of Filmmaker magazine that “Sewing is a literal metaphor for making one’s will, stitch after stitch. Louise Bourgeois also has a lot of sewing and waiting in her work. I love that this film is an opportunity to look at the world, or look at an event, or at Keats happening, through the eyes of someone who was a sew-er and a wait-er.”

Campion’s eye for needlework detail is evident from the opening scene, an extreme close-up of a needle piercing a cloth. It’s “a close image, very close, so close that you can see the fibers of the cloth furring its surface,” says Frank in her review. “This, then, will be a film about intimacy and domesticity, about creativity and limitations.” In other shots, the camera will linger on buttonholes, and seek out hats, pointy shoes, an embroidered silk pillowcase and a lavishly layered triple mushroom collar. The film ends as it begins, with Fanny sewing, this time her widow’s gown.

“In that period there weren’t many opportunities for women to express themselves,” Campion has observed. “They sewed and they waited; it has a kind of rhythm — needle in, needle out — to me that’s kind of poetic.”


A detail from the earliest plate in Fanny Brawne's book, dated 1812. Between 1821, when Keats died, and 1933 her book contains few entries. Her interest in fashion seemed to return after she married Louis Lindon.

Even Abbie Cornish, the 26-year-old Australian actress who played Fanny, picked up needle and thread to better inhabit the character. That Fanny created her own clothes and had a reputation for her flamboyant dress were key, according to Cornish. “You look back to her journals and they’re filled with drawings, different embroidery patterns and fabric swatches.” Fanny Brawne kept a Fashion Plate Book, from the time she was 12, in which she collected fashion, theatrical and costume illustrations. She wrote letters to Keats’ sister Fanny offering advice on fashion, textiles and London dressmakers and including diagrams to enhance her explanations. Fanny also occupied herself with embroidery, sewing and knitting. The Keats House Collection contains a few items that she created including a fichu scarf. A display about Fanny and fashion can be seen at the Keats House.

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10th Wave III: Online– The next best thing to being there

Posted in Art, Bamboo, Exhibitions, Installations, linen, Mixed Media, Safety Pins, Sculpture, silk, Waxed Cotton, Willow, Wire with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2009 by arttextstyle

Our first online exhibit, the10th Wave III: Online, opens today. The exhibit is a carefully curated selection of works presented in installation shots, images of individual works and detail photos. Approximating the in-person experience, viewers can “walk” through 26 images of the exhibit installed; click to view each of the 125 works in the show more closely, focus in on images of dozen of details and click to read more about each of the artists in the exhibition. “Images of individual works of art online are commonplace,” says Tom Grotta, president of browngrotta arts. “We have tried, instead, to give viewers a sense of the work in space, combined with the option of looking more closely at the pieces that interest them, just as they would have if they were visiting the exhibit in person.”

The artists in the 10th Wave III are experimenting with forms and techniques in novel and surprising ways, exploring new relationships among structure, design, color, and pattern.” They work in a wide range of materials from silk, stainless steel and rubber to recycled raincoats and linen to tree bark, safety pins and telephone books. Among the artists in the online exhibition are Lewis Knauss, Lia Cook, Gyöngy Laky from the US, Sue Lawty from the UK, Ritzi Jacobi from Germany, Jin-Sook So from Sweden, Carolina Yrarrázaval from Chile and Hisako Sekijima and Jiro Yonezawa from Japan.

The 10th Wave III: Online runs through December 20, 2009.

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The Street/Sky Continuum

Posted in Art with tags , , , on August 30, 2009 by arttextstyle

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If you find yourself in Trieste, Italy in the next month, don’t miss Slovenian artist Anda Klancic’s poster installed at via Monte Cengio. From the Gruppo78 press release: The coupling between man and nature is the basis of her thought. The materials that Anda uses in the implementation of her forms – natural fibers, palm bark, in a work of straw that leads to the dictates fiber-art — are as the old folk traditions. But the look against the sky, underlying thoughts and emotions aroused by the wonder of the universe, space / time without dimensions, by which man, reported to the finiteness of our planet, seems overwhelmed. The vortex of the sky, clearly obtained with the aid of computers, also alludes to the frenzy of contemporary life, as a projection on top of our daily convulsion. So in the work of Anda, converges a tumult of feelings, strong feelings, and passions that animate and through her thinking. broadcast in each case a positive impulse for life, love for life, despite its difficulties and contradictions.

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